An Astronaut's Guide to Implementing edTech
For our preamble to these tips check out: Connecting Chris Hadfield's Missions to edTech
1. The Trip Takes A LifetimeImplementing educational technology into our daily practices doesn’t come easy. Although the more we practice and adjust our teaching practices to the tools (not the other way around) the more effective we can become as tech-enhanced educators. The effective implementation of a new tech tool doesn’t happen the day you plan to launch. Invariably, there are a few bugs both in the software and how you teach it. These bugs need to be worked out over time. Much like Chris’ journey to "Rocket Man" stardom, implementing the tools you need takes a while. Our classroom technologies may not be as riveting or dangerous as operating a Russian Soyuz, but the trip into unchartered territory can be rewarding. Chris Hadfield’s advice is to learn for the love of it—learn new skills and knowledge even if you may never have the chance to use them. This life-long learning philosophy works with edTech because tools are constantly evolving and the landscape is always changing. You need to be a life-long learner and practice gradually incorporating educational technology daily. If you expect the tools to do the work for you-- you might not even leave the launch pad.
2. Have an AttitudeHaving an attitude means the exact opposite of how it sounds. We may consider ourselves to be tech-enhanced educators compared to some of our colleagues but having the humility to know that there is always more to learn can surely plant our noses back to the grindstone. Commander Hadfield applies this to his own experiences as he warns that a sense of entitlement to actual missions involving real space flight can negatively affect you and your crew's morale. Apparently, some astronauts never even see our planet from above -- not because they are incompetent but because there are so many variables out of their control that dictate who launches and who doesn't. Having an attitude of perserverance and humility may make the difference between being given the chance to acheive your goals or sitting on the sidelines. Remembering that you only occupy a small space in the edTech universe helps motivate you to stand out above the rest. Even when you do stand out, Chris reminds us through his rookie year at NASA that there will always be more elite practitioners waiting for us at the summit with another more arduous summit to climb. Don’t let your ego get in the way—smile, have fun and wear your love for the field of edTech like a badge.
3. The Power of Negative Thinking
Thinking rosy thoughts and seeing ourselves succeed are all fine and dandy. But stopping there could lead to disaster. Chris’ philosophy about negative thinking is summed up best with a joke: “An optimist sees a glass half full, a pessimist sees a glass half empty and an engineer sees two times too much glass.” Fear, according to Chris, comes from not knowing what to expect. Take the time to think about the ways a lesson could go south and stop them before they happen. That's why NASA is comprised of experts at inventing worst-case scenarios and role-playing them to death. In An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, Chris recounts several gripping tales of how negative thinking and the simulations that unearthed them has led to BOLD FACED flight rules for astronauts that have saved lives. Take the time to think situations through with your colleagues, role-play the what-ifs, reflect on how the lesson went and then write down a list of things that worked for the next crew. Simple precautions for implementing a new piece of edTech might make another teacher's life a lot easier. Besides, negative thinking and preparing ourselves for the unexpected allows us to enjoy the moment and smile while going through the motions.
4. Sweat the Small Stuff
Think through your sequence of steps. Question the details. What functions of the edTech tool are most helpful to beginners using the technology for the first time? How do I chunk the steps so as not to overwhelm students with too much information but not move at a snail’s pace? The only way to do this is to have a dress-rehearsal. Do a walk-through with the tech step-by-step as if you were the teacher. And then try it again as if you were the student. Your first dress rehearsal may take a while (see rule 1) but with anything, it will get easier. It may not be rocket science but it might be just as confusing to a student who has little experience with what you want to accomplish and the tool you want to use to accomplish it.
5. What’s the next thing that could kill me?
Although being prepared for emergencies in the classroom is definitely something educators need in their tool belt, we don't necessarily need to be to be overly worried about cockpit fires or guiding a large missile into space. As tech-enhanced educators, “kill” could be applied as more of a euphemism for stopping a lesson "dead" in its tracks. A smart projector fails to work before a guest speaker on Skype. The school reserve of iPads are being maintained during a new social studies lesson involving that funky new app you read about. These are things that need a plan B-Make sure you have a life vest (or whatever it is astronauts use) before venturing into any frontier.
For more implementation tips please feel free to read my colleague's blog: